The endless rise in tariffs, levies for overhaul, the failure of the garbage reform, dilapidated houses – this is not a complete list of problems in the housing and communal services, which today are familiar to every Russian by hearsay. Over the past 20 years, the government has carried out not a single industry reform. However, in fact, no changes for the better have happened. “Our Version” talks about what is wrong with the industry from those letters with the leader of the All-Russian party “People’s Housing and Communal Services” Sergei Krekov.
– Why did you decide to think about creating a party? Is it impossible to deal with housing and communal services problems as a public activist?
– Indeed, I have been engaged in social activities for many years. In 2015, a major overhaul program was launched and we, as experts, were invited to comment on it. We were shocked by what the Ministry of Construction and the government are proposing. Initially, it was clear that an inoperative unacceptable mechanism was being created, in fact, a huge financial pyramid. Even then, it was clear that not only would we not save the citizens’ investments in this program, but we would not make repairs either.
Confirmation of this is in front of everyone’s eyes today.
Head of the Public Council under the Ministry of Construction Sergey Stepashin in 2019-2020, he said that about 200 billion rubles had accumulated on the accounts, collected from citizens for overhaul, and this money was not used. At the same time, we all see that prices are constantly growing, inflation is increasing. A sharp rise in prices for building materials was recently discussed. That is, the depreciation of funds collected from citizens occurs at an accelerated pace.
On the other hand, according to the statement of the auditor of the Accounting Chamber Svetlana Orlova, the overhaul program as of January 1, 2019 was financed by only 55%. According to her, there are risks that the implementation of the overhaul program may be disrupted or not implemented at all in the near future.
I remember that at the start of the overhaul program, we were making a story with NTV journalists. I invited them, as in the film “Irony of Fate”, to go into two identical houses in different cities and ask how much people pay for the overhaul. It turned out that some at that time had a tariff of 15 rubles, while others had about 5 rubles. The difference is three times. But nobody cared before.
Absolutely terrible, limitless program, the consequences of which will come back to haunt us.
As a result, it became clear that a legislative initiative was needed to solve the problems of housing and communal services. And we could not get it from anyone. The only way out of this situation is to get this right yourself.
– Today, many are dissatisfied with the overhaul, the program is openly criticized in the media. You, as social activists, could turn with your initiatives, say, to the already existing parties. Don’t you think this path is easier?
– At first we thought exactly that: if you criticize, offer it. At that time we did not yet know what to offer was a crime.
And we proposed to supplement the overhaul program with a lending mechanism: that is, let the repair be done first, and then they will take money from people for it. This way, savings will not be depreciated, and people can be honestly explained why they are paying contributions.
Moreover, in order not to create a conflict, we proposed to supplement the program with a lending mechanism. If you want – continue to save, if you do not want – get a loan.
We turned to all parliamentary factions and contacted the Ministry of Construction. We even got support from Sergei Mironov, Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky answered us. But since then nothing has been done. Since 2015, no matter how much we tried, wherever we turned! And even now, when all parties are conducting an active election campaign, fighting for votes, this important question is not heard anywhere.
The current Housing Code was adopted in 2004. Soon 20 years have passed since the lawlessness in apartment buildings. The wear and tear of the housing stock is growing, problems are growing, and dissatisfaction is accumulating. And most importantly, it turned out that the problems of housing and communal services do not have their own political representative. At the global level, no one is doing this.
– Everything is so, but don’t you think that housing and communal services are too narrow a topic for a political party? And in general, can the problems of housing and communal services, no matter how important they are, be considered political? Isn’t there an artificial politicization of the issue here?
– We were told by many: what does the housing and communal services and politics have to do with it. I will give you an example of the “Greens” who started in Europe also with a certain everyday problem. Their basic agenda initially included ecology, environmental pollution, issues of comfortable living, in which no one invested any global political goals. But these are real problems. And people, seeing that they did not dare, seeing the inaction of politicians, themselves politicized this topic.
The situation is similar with housing and utilities issues in Russia. There is no solution to elementary problems, but on the other hand, there is lobbying for the interests of big business and officials who make money on this, and they put people in a situation of serfs, forcing them to pay per capita tax.
There is such a public movement “People’s Housing Inspector”, within which we consulted citizens on housing and communal services. As we communicated with residents, we realized that people themselves politicize housing and communal services issues. They do not want to know the norms of laws that do not work, they do not need tales that it is possible to change a careless Management Company (MC) or that they themselves control the quality of overhaul work.
Let me give you a simple example. Within the framework of the state order, tenders are held and companies are selected at the lowest price.
And when choosing a Criminal Code for a house where residents did not hold a general meeting, this principle does not apply, that is, the price is not a selection criterion.
The entire system is configured in such a way that it is completely in the hands of local and municipal authorities. The State Housing Inspectorate systems, fines, supervision, regulation, licensing have now been introduced, prosecutorial supervision is additionally over this area – all this, in fact, is just a semblance of control. Let us recall at least how the initiatives of the former head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service ended Igor Artemiev at the rates of housing and communal services. He publicly announced that the tariffs are too high and that he knows the people involved. What is the result? A few months later, the same Mr. Artemyev said that the solution to the problem of overcharged tariffs would not be to lower them to a fair level, but that we would increase them more slowly!
As a result, people politicize all these stories, they see that the system was originally created unfairly and they are primarily interested in systemic changes.
– There really is a request for solving the problems of housing and communal services in society. But is there a request to create a party?
– The Levada Center * conducted a sociological survey in 2020, in which people were asked two questions. The first is whether they are satisfied with the quality of housing and communal services, and the second is whether, from their point of view, a new political party is needed to solve the problems of housing and communal services.
As expected, 53.7% of respondents answered that they were not satisfied with the quality of services. But the results of the answer to the second question simply amazed us: it turned out that 42.7% of Russians believe that such a party is needed. When we saw this, the question of whether to do a game or not to do it disappeared for us by itself. Since such a significant number of people believe that such a party is needed, this is a green signal for us. So we took up this issue with great enthusiasm.
– According to our information, the Ministry of Justice has already “wrapped up” your registration three times. What is the reason for this and is there a chance that the party will still be registered?
– The history of our registration with the Ministry of Justice has been going on for two years. This spring we submitted documents for the third time, taking into account all the comments made to us before, but still in May we received a refusal.
I don’t even know how to comment on this. I’ll just give you an example. There is a special tax form that is filled out at the request of the Federal Tax Service. And in this document, in accordance with the filling rules approved by the Federal Tax Service, the founders of the party are not indicated. And the Ministry of Justice tells us that the founders must be indicated in the form.
We filed a lawsuit and already in court explained that we should not fill out this form the way the Ministry of Justice wants. Moreover, the official program posted on the website of the tax authorities does not allow this. We even provided the court with a notarial confirmation of this fact. What was ignored by the court, and the representative of the Ministry of Justice said that they require filling out the form as they think is correct.
It turns out that the Ministry of Justice simply freely interprets the norms of the law in a direction convenient for itself. This, I think, is unacceptable.
We lost in the court of first instance, now we are awaiting an appeal.
But at the same time, we initiated a new party congress and re-prepared a package of documents for registration, taking into account all the wishes of the Ministry of Justice. They even managed to take into account the strange wishes of the Ministry of Justice. Our lawyer manually filled out the tax form on more than 100 sheets. The program simply does not allow to enter the founders there, I had to fill it in by hand.
So now we are waiting: either a fair trial on the merits in the appeal, or registration with the Ministry of Justice.
– It is clear that you will definitely not get to the next elections to the State Duma. How will your party work be structured next?
– We have a program, there are many problems that we raise. They concern the vital interests of citizens. But the most important thing is that we are hitting the positions of big bureaucratic business in making huge amounts of money, amounting to billions of rubles. This includes overhaul, garbage reform, and issues of public-private partnership in the field of housing and communal services.
Participation in the elections to the State Duma was not an end in itself for us, we immediately understood that, most likely, we would not be in time. I wanted to declare myself, yes. But this is not important for us, because we are not creating a party for some one-time electoral process. The sphere of housing and communal services for us is a systematic work.
Annual regional elections are ahead. This will test us and our program.
– Today we talked a lot about the problems of overhaul. But housing and communal services are not only overhauls. What initiatives is your party planning to implement?
– We have many projects that we plan to implement. This is, for example, the creation of a digital platform “People’s Housing Inspector”, in which any resident will be able to record violations and, using an application in his smartphone, immediately send complaints or requests in electronic form to the relevant supervisory authorities.
We also plan to create a charitable foundation. We have problems with paying for communal services by the poor and socially unprotected segments of the population. People are being evicted onto the street because they have accumulated huge debts for housing and communal services and there is no money to pay them. Today this is an established practice. The fund would be able to contact management organizations, sort out such cases, offer to write off part of the debt, and repay the rest from the fund’s resources.
Another important project is the creation of an Internet platform, where the entire process of creating a homeowners association will be scheduled in stages. At each stage, all the necessary documents will be contained with detailed instructions for filling them out, as well as the possibility of obtaining remote legal advice in case questions arise during the registration of the HOA.
If in the near future there will be no changes for the better in housing and communal services that will break the existing paradigm of “legalized lawlessness”, then the only chance for residents to defend their interests, I see in the creation of a homeowners association. Therefore, this project is a priority for us.
Sergei Krekov is a public figure, leader of the All-Russian political party “People’s Housing and Communal Services Party”; he has been dealing with housing and communal services since 2013. Initiated the creation of the All-Russian public movement “People’s Housing Inspector”, as well as the specialized industry association Association of Companies Serving Real Estate (AKON).
Author of many public initiatives on the topic of housing and communal services, which were actively covered in the media. Among them: “First overhaul – then payment!”, “Trust Management Institute (IMU) in the housing sector” and others. Author and developer of the methodology for the national rating of management companies.
- The non-governmental research organization “Levada-Center” is included by the Ministry of Justice in the list of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent